Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Best Superman Comic Ever Doesn't Star Superman

Over the past decade, I've been shedding my comic book collection.  I once had over thirty boxes of comics, but I dreaded moving them and dreaded something disastrous happening to them (I heard a few horror stories of flooding and whatnot over the years), so I decided to get rid of them in part of a general purge of my previous packrat ways.

Yes, I'm sort of an anti-hoarder these days.

Most of my excessive belongings I discarded fairly quickly, but with the comics I took a strange and different tack.  Since I had bought the comics monthly over a period of years or otherwise had picked up a series or set haphazardly over the years from flea markets and comic shop back issue bins, I decided that it might be fun to read each series in order in a short amount of time, which would make for a different type of reading experience.

It did.  I picked up on connections among the various issues that I didn't notice before, as well as picking up on narrative inconsistencies, which are understandable enough when a writer is crafting a serialized story over a long period of time.  I also noticed that some comics were better than I remembered while others were worse.  All in all, the project was a lot of fun. I'm near the end of it now.  I only have one box of comics, and I'm keeping those.

If civilization ever collapses, we'll need a Superman to save us, right?

One of the most interesting discoveries was how good Supreme is.

Supreme is a horrible Superman knockoff created by Rob Liefeld (if you know comics well, then I guess writing "horrible" and "created by Rob Liefeld" is a bit redundant, but not everyone who reads this is into comics).  But somehow Liefeld convinced Alan Moore (i.e., the best comics writer ever) to write the series.  Moore completely revamped the series and just made it Superman basically.  How DC, the publisher of the real Superman, didn't sue Liefeld is beyond me; perhaps they had had enough problems with Moore and didn't want to alienate him any "Moore".  In any case, the series is wonderful.  I just read a number of Superman comics, some of which were quite good, but none of them were as much fun as Supreme.

In the series, Moore basically takes all the silly 1950s and 1960s Superman stories and infuses them into modern comics (an approach Grant Morrison would emulate in his recent run on Batman--by the way, the character Billy Friday in Supreme appears to be a parody of Morrison), so along with a Supreme story, there's also the story of the comics industry, complete with homages to Golden Age comics, EC Comics, the socially conscious stories of the 1970s, the grim and gritty 1980s comics, and the ridiculousness of 1990s comics.

The series is also filled with Moore versions of Batman, The Justice League, The Legion Of Super-Heroes, and pretty much every other DC hero from the Silver Age.  Unlike Watchmen, Moore doesn't deconstruct superheroes here; he just has a good time with them.  It's lighthearted and sort of the DC equivalent to Moore's 1963, which was a homage to 1960s Marvel Comics.

Unfortunately, Supreme was never finished.  Liefeld's publishing company went bankrupt, so Moore took some of the concepts from the series and some others that he had been developing with other Liefeld characters and used them in his America's Best Comics line.  Recently, Erik Larsen came out with Supreme 63, drawing from Moore's last, unpublished script, but Moore never finished the entire storyline, so Larsen carried on after it.

That's probably a bit like going to a concert and having The Monkees play after The Beatles, but let's be grateful to Larsen for giving us one "Moore" issue of Supreme.

It's ironic that the best Superman comics I've ever read weren't actually Superman comics.

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